HonestBuildings: Facebook for buildings

Honest Buildings, launched in the UK last month, puts buildings at the heart of its connections, with their energy efficiency open to scrutiny, encouraging owners and suppliers to demonstrate their carbon reduction commitments.

Honest Buildings, a US-based property network that connects decision makers to service providers for millions of commercial buildings, is expanding into the UK, and, through a partnership with BRE Global, is displaying the environmental performance certifications of thousands of buildings that are certified under the BREEAM standard.


Honest Buildings' UK representative Nick Katz spoke at the Be2Awards in London in September 2012. Since then, he has been marketing the platform to UK businesses, and firms using the platform now include Aviva Investors, British Land, and Henderson Global Investors. Some 9,500 commercial buildings (14.1 million square metres) are already listed on the UK network.

Launched in New York in March 2012, it has similarities with social networks such as LinkedIn, but rather than linking individuals and companies, its main focus is on buildings (it's website talks about a "network of buildings"). Planned, under construction or completed, buildings can have profiles created for them with which owners, consultants, contractors and other service providers can then associate themselves.

Over time, these profiles can be developed by the firms into online and app-based HB Portfolios of the work they've undertaken. Equally, customers looking for consultants and other service providers for future projects can use Honest Buildings as a match-making service (HB Match) to source, qualify and select firms for their next schemes.

Mark Chadwick of London consultant Carbon Clear used HB Match to find an engineering firm for an energy efficient HVAC retrofit of a 10,000 square metre luxury hotel outside London:

“The speed and efficiency with which HB delivered was very impressive, providing qualified contacts with virtually no effort on our side. We expect to use the platform for rolling out this pilot and expanding to the rest of the hotel portfolio."


Also, as part of today’s launch, BRE Global is, for the first time beyond its own website, sharing the BREEAM certifications of thousands of buildings online. Honest Buildings profiles will help users identify projects with good sustainability credentials, and also link to the firms that helped achieve the relevant BREEAM certifications. Large design firms such as Arup, WSP and Buro Happold already have profiles on the network, as do smaller specialists like Carbon Clear, and Carbon Saver UK whose MD Janet Becket says:

"The Honest Buildings Network is such a useful resource and so handy to display our portfolio of work. There's the possibility to get discovered by all sorts of property decision makers, partners and others, as well as the unlimited upside of gaining new business from HB Match."

The BRE Global partnership echoes similar relationships in the US, where Honest Buildings has worked with state governments to power their online platforms for building and energy efficiency initiatives. It powers a platform for New York State’s Build Smart NY initiative, which aims for a 20% reduction in energy use across 224 million sq ft of government-owned property by 2020. In London, Honest Buildings is based at the Open Data Institute in Shoreditch and collaboration there will allow Honest Buildings access to further data sets in the UK and beyond.

A carbon saving network

Beyond the UK, Honest Buildings has ambitions to take the concept to other markets in mainland Europe where there are strong real estate communities - and also strong financial incentives to reduce carbon emissions. For me, the growing need to develop and manage more energy-efficient buildings is likely to stimulate interest in the information shared by the site, and by linking leaders in energy efficiency right down the supply chain - from owner-operators through contractors and consultants to suppliers of products and services - the site could help promote best practice in carbon reduction.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in life-cycle cost management, but no easy way for professionals to benchmark their buildings' performance against others. Honest Buildings' building-centric approach and its partnerships with data providers could provide more transparency, and accelerate the adoption of more energy-efficient building services and products. For businesses competing in this field, such a network may prove invaluable in both demonstrating existing credentials and in winning future work.

(This is an edited version of a post first published on my ExtranetEvolution tech blog.)

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